Los Vélez to New York!

After months and months of lovely hot sunny weather, the first really cold snap and very windy weather arrived here in Vera (15C – when you live here that’s cold!). So, what should you do? Yes, visit Vélez Rubio and Vélez Blanco where it’s a balmy 5C!

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In fact Vélez Rubio, Vélez Blanco, Chirival and Maria are the four villages of Los Velez and are situated in the northern corner of Almeria province amongst the Sierra de Maria – Los Vélez Natural Park. The landscape is stunning with mountains, pine forests and the area is also steeped in history. 

Forty-five minutes drive and climbing 2800 feet aproximately, the sky is blue and bright and the air crisp and very fresh! As you approach Vélez Rubio, the pueblo is dominated by the church, Iglesia de la Encarnación.

It was built in the 18th century and is meant to be one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Almeria.

The main alter is an amazingly detailed wood carving and some 65 feet high. The façade includes the arms of the Marquises of Villafranca and Velez who built the church.

As always, I’m not sure my Samsung mobile phone camera can do it justice?

The next stop is the Miguel Guiro Archaeological Museum to see more of the history from prehistoric remains and the Arab and Roman eras. The prehistoric caves and paintings at Cueva de Los Letreos and La Cueva del Gabar are UNESCO World Heritage listed sites. Cueva de Los Letreos dates from 5000BC with paintings of men, women and animals. It was here that the figure of Indalo was discovered. You see the Indalo man symbol everywhere in Almeria and it is believed to offer protection from misfortunes! We’ll see!

Time for a short lunch and then a 10 minute drive to Velez Blanco. The castle, Castillo Palacio is set high up on the rock and more than 1000 meters tall looking down on the pueblo. It was built on top of an old Arab castle in the 16th century. Sadly, only the exterior has been preserved to this day. You can take at tour but now it’s winter opening hours so it was closed when we were there. (We should have checked first!)

You will also see the remains of the Iglesia de la Magdalena on the hillside near the Castillo. In the church are the graves of the first two Marquises of Los Velez.

There are quite a few hotels here but they are all closed until the spring. But still a pretty place and nice to just wander around, soak up the atmosphere and stop for a hot coffee! Near to a bodega is the brightly coloured Fuente Caños de Caravaca (fountain) from the 18th century featuring the Vélez Blanco arms.

In the summer when the streets are buzzing with tourists and all the cafes and restaurants are open,  it would be lovely to just sit outside with a drink and watch the sunset.

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So, Los Velez to New York?

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Met Museum of Art NY

Well, the marble patio from the Castillo was actually purchased by George and Florence Meyer Blumenthal in 1913 and was the centre piece in their house on Park Avenue, Manhattan. He gifted the patio to the Met Museum of Art in 1945 when he died. The patio was removed in blocks and placed in the museum storage until 1963. (Blumenthal’s house was demolished.) After further, research the patio was reconstructed and installed and during the construction two arches and other modern elements added by Blumenthal were removed. It now serves as the entrance of the Thomas J Watson Library showcasing the museum’s Italian Renaissance statues.

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1997 to 2000 the patio was closed for refurbishment with a new floor of the same Macael marble put in which closely matches the original patio floor.

I didn’t expect this cosmopolitan ‘ending’ when Rhona (my blogging buddy!) and I set off to visit these sleepy pueblos!! But you never know what you might discover!

 

Coming soon ….. ‘what’s in Colin’s trug this week!’

Colin's trug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I was having a coffee right now …..

If I was having a coffee right now …… firstly, I would remember to take a photo of my friend Rhona and I sipping fresh coffee! Whoops!

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Anyway, we spent the morning in San Jose, Almeria. Just 50 minutes drive, on a sunny October day, from Vera. We drove by El Sotillo Cortijo, a refurbished 18th century house (now hotel), on the outskirts and which has links to Clint Eastwood and the movie Fistful of Dollars. ‘Google’ movies filmed in Almeria, you will be surprised!

This is such a lovely time of year to explore, as the main tourist season has finished but there are still enough restaurants and shops open and with quite a few people just mooching and chilling. And of course the token cyclists who are so popular in Almeria but they stop for a refreshing beer not coffee …..ha! ha! However, in July and August this place is mobbed with mainly the Spanish people on holiday from Madrid and in fact this year the local police were limiting the number of people on the beach! Hard to imagine?

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The shops are good and a little different, check out Salamandra Lamparas, great, stunning and quirky.

The promenade is lined with fish restaurants, leading to a small marina and is still a busy little fishing port.  In the main holiday season, there’s kayaking, scuba diving and other water sports plus horse trekking on offer.

The Cabo de Gata coastline is relatively unspoilt with beautiful coves, beaches and pueblos. I have visited Agua Amarga several times which is much smaller than San Jose. Definitely not such a tourist resort, and I think even more charming? (photos below)

Still on my list ‘to visit’ are Las Negras and Rodaquilar (with the closed goldmines). And one day, do some of the walking trails with Charlie.

Meanwhile, it was just a lovely way to spend a morning in this glorious part of Spain where we live!

After 3 ….. 1 2 3,   musical-notes

Woh woh woh woh woh woh woh woh woh woh  

Do you know the way to San Jose
I’ve been away so long
I may go wrong and lose my way
Do you know the way to San Jose
I’m going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose

(I know the song is about the one in LA but couldn’t resist!).

Cabo de Gata Nijar

Chilled on fun deck!

 

We decided to celebrate our birthdays (I forget which one now!) and our silver wedding anniversary with a special holiday. Chilling on fun deck and cruising out of Barcelona, taking in the South of France, Italy and Montenegro and finally back to Barcelona.

We arrived mid-afternoon on the Friday and had our first mini taste of Barcelona. We checked in at the hotel and headed straight to La Sagrada Familia, just 10 minutes’ walk away.

Wow, the Gaudi masterpiece is just stunning, beautiful, amazing captivating …… Our tour included going up one of the towers – the passion tower – looking out over Barcelona city!

Now, my challenge is how many of the hundred plus photos to feature on this post as none of them really do justice to this spectacular structure due to be finished 2026! (Visit http://www.sagradafamilia.org for all the history – fascinating.)

We will definitely go back to Barcelona and visit all the sites!

After a morning stroll around the city we boarded the ship Saturday lunchtime and set sail for Villefranche Sur Mer which is nestled between Nice and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur.

Still a fishing village with so much charm and French chic but bustling with locals and tourists. We decided to spend most of our time there after catching the bus into Nice for a few hours.

Nice was hectic as the Monaco Grand Prix was on…..poor Steve, so close and yet so far…..another year?

Monday we docked in Livorno, west coast of Tuscany, Italy. A cruise gives you a real flavour for places but it is impossible to visit all the sites in a day. So, we decided to visit Lucca and Pisa with Tuscanybus.com which was an excellent service and tour. Lucca is known for the well preserved Renaissance wall surrounding the city plus Lucca is the birth place of the opera composer Puccini.

Such a pretty place and we sampled our first Italian ice cream!

After chilling in Lucca for a few hours, we moved on to Pisa which as expected was super busy with tourists, but still amazing to visit. The leaning tower of Pisa, 185 feet of white marble! But the bell tower is not the only attraction in the Field of Miracles – Campo dei Miracoli. There is the Cathedral, Baptistery and ll Duomo (Italian for The Dome).

The following day, we arrived in Civitavecchia Port and took the train to Rome S. Pietro just 40 minutes away. Well, as the English playwright John Heywood said…Rome wasn’t built in a day… and for sure even on the best ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour, it is a challenge to visit all the awesome sites in a day! But before we took the bus, we walked only 15 minutes from the station to the Vatican City, the smallest city in the world (110 acres) and where the Swiss guards still serve as the military force.

St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica are stunning and vast and again, impossible to really capture in a photo. Especially, in a sea of Japanese tourists with either umbrellas or selfie sticks!

We had a 10 hour exhausting but fun day. Apart from the café, where we stopped and had 2 coffees, 2 small pastries and 1 small bottle of water. I jokingly commented that the bill will be huge as there was a cash machine by the door…28 euros later!! Still, we had plenty of cents to throw in the Trevi fountain in order to get that perfect photo.

We strolled around the area and took a peek at the Pantheon, a former Roman temple. But Steve wasn’t allowed in as he was wearing a vest t shirt, so did I, but my shoulders were good to bare….ha! ha! Back on the tour bus, through the streets and more tourist points of interest until we reached the Colosseum – another wow to finally see in real life. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre and the largest ever built.

Back on the bus, final photo opportunity was the Altare della Patria, a huge monument built to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

Phew, just minutes away from the station we chilled in a lovely Italian café with fresh pizza and ice cold Peroni beer.

My step counter had almost exploded….our poor feet!!

Good morning to Wednesday, as we docked at Salerno, a port city in Campania and about 1 hours’ drive from the Amalfi coast. We went ashore for coffee and a strolled around and just wanted to relax after Rome. Didn’t fancy a boat trip for the day when we were cruising anyway!

After a day at sea, we started sailing into Venice at Friday lunchtime, a place we have both really wanted to visit for many years. Every passenger was out on deck with their cameras. Breath-taking as we sailed by Piazza San Marco, Saint Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, and the excitement just kept building. (Also couldn’t believe there were four other cruise ships dominating the cruise port skyline when we docked!).

We were half an hour walk from where our dear friends Dee and Rob were staying – we were all going to share the Venice experience!

Plus we met with Italian friends Angelo and Marco who immediately advised us the best way to see Venice was to ‘walk Venice’……the step counter was ready again! They also took us to the Venetian Ghetto area which a lot of tourists miss. (The ghetto was an area where Jews used to be compelled to live by the government.) We sat outside eating Venetian style tapas (cicchetti) and drinking good Italian wine, just bliss soaking up the atmosphere with the boats passing by. We walked back to the ship and Venice at night looked magical! Venice didn’t disappoint.

Next day, we all met up and started the step counter, crossed a few canals, caught a water taxi to Saint Mark’s Square and took a boat trip to Murano, famous for its long tradition of glass making.

A factory visit, a showroom visit, glass pendants for Dee and I, lunch and back to the real hustle and bustle!

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Somehow, we walked by Doge’s Palace, through Saint Mark’s Square, by Saint Mark’s Basilica, the clock tower, took photos of the Bridge of Sighs without losing anyone! Stopped at a café for a well-earned drink, and then finished walking over the Rialto Bridge and meandering through many narrow streets, over so many tiny bridges back to the hotel.

Farewell Venice, it didn’t disappoint, did I already say that? We will go back there, for sure.

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Sunday morning we docked in Porto Corsini. With a large marina and then beaches and pine forests, pretty. We took the local ferry and bus into Ravenna and strolled around the market etc. The ship sailed early afternoon and we enjoyed cruising across to Montenegro.

Kotor Bay is the deepest natural fjord-bay in the Med and the sail in scenery was stunning.

We visited the walled medieval old town of Kotor, winding streets and squares and Romanesque churches, shops and cafes. It was a bit touristy, but great fun and was a lovely port to end our fantastic cruise!

We had a final two days cruising an chilling back to Barcelona and home to Antas.